Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. (Photo: HT)
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. (Photo: HT)

Opinion | Nitish’s fury and a natural calamity

Patna is particularly vulnerable to floods, and reports suggest that no effort has been made in 50 years to adapt the drainage system to that reality

Bihar’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has been in power since 2005, has earned himself the moniker of “Sushasan Babu", or good-governance man, and rightly so. Bihar has seen large networks of roads built under his watch, easing the lives of millions. The state, once ravaged by caste strife, is relatively peaceful. Law and order has improved under him.

However, his reputation as a good administrator has been tested by the flood-like situation brought on by an unusually heavy downpour at the fag-end of the monsoon season. At least 40 people have lost their lives. Several neighbourhoods of Patna, the capital city, are marooned. Telephone and electricity lines have snapped, compounding the suffering of people. Kumar, thus, faced angry residents as he went about surveying the worst-affected areas of the city. He snapped when journalists asked him about the death toll and damages, and whether his administration was up to the challenge. “What happened in America?" he asked angrily at one point, probably referring to the tropical storm Imelda that struck Texas last month.

Kumar may be right that floods are unpredictable and hard to handle. But drawing America into the argument is irrelevant if the question is about his administration’s ability to provide relief to those affected. Patna is particularly vulnerable to floods, and reports suggest that no effort has been made in 50 years to adapt the drainage system to that reality. Roads are visible, while drains are not. Good governance should include building what needs to be built, regardless of visibility.

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